Date of Award

Fall 2021

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Wildlife Ecology and Wildlife Conservation


Erik Blomberg

Second Committee Member

Pauline Kamath

Third Committee Member

Joseph Zydlewski

Additional Committee Members

Alessio Mortelliti

Erin Simons-Legaard


Wild turkeys are a wide-ranging species with considerable cultural and economic significance. As they can exist across a variety of ecosystems, understanding how land use affects population vital rates can be a crucial component of informed population management. This is even more important for turkey populations in Maine, where harsh winters can have negative impacts on survival and reproduction.

I used a combination of banding and tracking data to better understand the relationship between turkey population ecology at their northern range limit and the diverse landscape gradient they occupy in Maine. I produced wildlife management district specific estimates of turkey abundance that accounted for spatial variation in harvest rate. I examined how turkeys moderated their movement behavior and resource selection according to weather factors during the winter. I expanded on traditional methods used to assess nesting habitat to produce a holistic estimate of turkey nesting habitat quality that accounted for multiple nesting stages and spatial scales. Finally, I simulated movement of turkeys during their seasonal movements between winter and spring to better understand how turkey populations were connected across the state.

Turkey populations in Maine appear to be largely stable over the past decade, with populations being most dense in the southern portion of Maine and becoming increasingly less dense farther north and inland. Turkeys during the winter adjust their movement behavior, which was associated with changes in resource selection, in response to increased snow depths and decreased wind chill. Such changes likely allow turkeys to shelter and reserve energy during periods of severe winter weather. During the spring, turkeys depart their winter ranges and establish nesting ranges according to large-scale landscape characteristics. Resource selection changed throughout the nesting period according to the specific behavioral phase a turkey was in, with turkeys interacting with their environment at increasingly finer scales as movement became more localized. Finally, we expect that a considerable number of turkeys move among wildlife management districts during seasonal movements between winter and spring ranges, which warrants consideration for management and monitoring efforts.

Files over 10MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."